As the world reacts in horror to Bucha, China’s state media strikes a different tone

There, national media reports of civilian casualties in Bucha have been quick to emphasize the Russian rebuttal, with two prominent televised reports by national broadcaster CCTV this week highlighting unsubstantiated claims by Moscow that the situation was organized after the Russian forces withdrew from the area.

In one report, a caption citing Russia with the words “Ukrainians put on a good show” appears over very blurry images of the Ukrainian city.

There is no evidence to suggest that this is the case. Satellite images suggest some bodies had been there since at least March 18, while eyewitnesses said the carnage began weeks ago.

Separately, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said Tuesday that Bucha’s shocking footage showed “all the signs” that civilians were “directly targeted and killed.” On Tuesday, UN chief António Guterres joined growing international calls for a war crimes investigation into the killing of civilians in the city.

War crimes accusations up the ante for China’s position. Beijing’s apparent push for Russian propaganda is consistent with its stance since the beginning of the invasion, as it has refused to condemn Russia, at home or in its diplomacy, even as the civilian death toll mounts.
Instead, Beijing has tried to present itself as a neutral actor, calling for peace and blaming the situation on the United States.

This was shown in an editorial published in the nationalist Global Times tabloid on Wednesday, which appeared to question the veracity of what it called, in quotes, the “Bucha incident” and absolved Russia of responsibility.

“It is unfortunate that after the exposure of the ‘Bucha incident’, the United States, the initiator of the Ukraine crisis, has not shown any signs of urging peace and promoting talks, but is ready to exacerbate tensions between Russia and Ukraine,” he said. the publisher said.

“No matter how the ‘Bucha incident’ happened, no one can deny at least one thing: the war itself is the main culprit of the humanitarian disaster,” he added.

a common enemy

Rising tensions with the US have brought Moscow and Beijing closer together in recent years, with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping declaring that their countries’ partnership had “no limits” only a few weeks. weeks before the Russian invasion.

Since Russia’s invasion, Beijing has been under considerable pressure to condemn Russia’s actions and join countries around the world in imposing sanctions. Instead, Chinese officials have refused to use the term invasion to describe Russia’s actions, saying repeatedly that they will break through when it comes to their response.

At a special session of the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday, Chinese Ambassador Zhang Jun acknowledged that the images of civilian deaths in Bucha were “deeply disturbing”, but when it came to assigning blame for the situation , urged “all parties” to “exercise restraint”. and avoid unfounded accusations”.

“The relevant circumstances and specific causes of the incident must be verified and established. Any accusation must be based on facts,” Zhang said.

Similar comments were made by Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin at a regular briefing on Wednesday, who said “humanitarian issues should not be politicized.”

“All parties should exercise restraint and avoid baseless accusations” before the investigation of the facts is concluded, Wang said, adding that China “is willing to continue to work together with the international community to prevent harm to civilians.”

But at home, China has been sending a more direct message, one that ties in with a longer history of mutually reinforcing Russian and Chinese state media, on topics such as the treatment of Russian dissidents, pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and the origins of Covid-19, as they seek to refute characterizations by Western officials and media.

In an example of such an overlap on Tuesday, the state-run China News Service published a post on the popular Twitter-like social media platform Weibo with the hashtag: “Russia shows video to prove Bucha incident is staged.” “, referring to a report by a Russian state news agency.

But even as China amplifies Russian rhetoric in its reports at home, some public displays of skepticism can be seen, including on China’s highly moderated social media platforms.

In a recent example, a widely followed military blogger wrote on Sunday that the Ukrainians were responsible for a “massacre” of civilians, but several users in the comments below suggested the details of the post were wrong.

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